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The History of National Nurses Week – From Then to Now

The World Health Organization designated 2020 as International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and runs through May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Now more than ever, nurses are being recognized as heroes as they fight alongside their fellow clinicians on the front lines of COVID-19.

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820. During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses improved the unsanitary conditions at a British hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds. Her writings sparked worldwide healthcare reform.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) has promoted nursing since 1896. The ANA supports and encourages National Nurses Week recognition programs through the state and district nurses associations, other specialty nursing organizations, educational facilities, and independent healthcare companies and institutions.

The commitment nurses make to protecting, promoting and improving healthcare for all is well-recognized, as is their public service in a wide range of roles and work settings. We celebrate nurses and the vital roles they play in healthcare every day, but especially during Nurses Week.

Following is a timeline of some important milestones in the establishment of National Nurses Week:

1953: Dorothy Sutherland of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent a proposal to President Eisenhower to proclaim a “Nurse Day” in October of the following year. The proclamation was never made.

1974: In February of that year, a week was designated by the White House as National Nurse Week, and President Nixon issued a proclamation.

1982: In February, the ANA Board of Directors formally acknowledged May 6, 1982, as “National Nurses Day.” The action affirmed a joint resolution of the United States Congress designating May 6 as “National Recognition Day for Nurses.”

1982: President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation on March 25, proclaiming “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6, 1982.

1990: The ANA Board of Directors expanded the recognition of nurses to a week-long celebration, declaring May 6 – 12, 1991, as National Nurses Week.

1993: The ANA Board of Directors designated May 6 – 12 as permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week in 1994 and in all subsequent years.

Nurses and other health workers are on the front lines of COVID-19 response. They provide high-quality treatment and patient care, respond to community concerns and questions and, in some instances, collect data for clinical studies.

During this unprecedented crisis, we have an urgent need for nurses to serve in the fight against COVID-19 in New York and New Jersey for an 8-13 week assignment. We have urgent needs for Critical Care, ICU and Medical/Surgical inpatient nurses as well as registered nurse case managers. Join the COVID-19 fight here:

At TeamHealth, we support nurses and recognize their invaluable efforts and vital contributions to society. Share a personal thank you to nurses on social media using the hashtag #NationalNursesWeek, #ThankYouNurses and #Nurses2020.